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Giuliani's surprise media blitz rattles WH. TRANSCRIPT: 05/03/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Anita Kumar, Francesca Chambers, Ken Vogel, Michael Avenatti; Katie Phang

Show: HARDBALL Date: May 3, 2018 Guest: Anita Kumar, Francesca Chambers, Ken Vogel, Michael Avenatti; Katie Phang

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Hush, hush sweet Stormy. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We are learning for the first time the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels came from President Trump himself. The dramatic confession of the President`s personal involvement with the payoff was made by his new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This was supposed to be about Trump campaign, Russia collusion.


HANNITY: OK. It`s gone. Never happened.

GIULIANI: He`s been cleared of that.

HANNITY: My question is, are you concerned in the process of this, we did discover that a foreign national Christopher Steele, was paid through Fusion GPS, used Russian sources that not only weren`t verified were debunked. Are you concerned that that was paid for tore manipulate the American people in the lead up to an election?

GIULIANI: Isn`t that closer to the mandate than Michael Cohen.

HANNITY: Why isn`t that happening? Where is Mueller on that, sir?

GIULIANI: Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000? I mean which is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I`m giving a fact now that you don`t know. It`s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.

HANNITY: So they funneled it through a law firm.

GIULIANI: Funneled through a law firm and the President repaid it.

HANNITY: Do you know the President didn`t know about this? I believe that`s what Michael had said.

GIULIANI: He didn`t know the specs of it as far as I know. He did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this. Like I take of things like this for my client. I don`t burn them with every single thing that comes along.


MATTHEWS: Well, Giuliani a former federal prosecutor himself said the money was funneled from Trump to his lawyer fixer Michael Cohen and then to the adult film actor. In March, Cohen said he paid Daniels $130,000 a week before the 2016 Presidential election to keep her quiet about his sexual relationship with President Trump ten years earlier. I should say the White House has denied that relationship.

Just a month ago, Trump denied knowing anything about the payments to Daniels. Let`s watch that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael. Michael is my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: Well, this morning in a tweet, President Trump confirmed his complete 180. He said Cohen was reimbursed from his for his payment to Daniels through a monthly retainer. The breathtaking turn of events represents an apparent effort to protect Michael Cohen and Trump from a campaign violation.

According to "the Washington Post," the President and his lawyer have been discussing the new strategy for weeks. Three people familiar with the conversation tell "the Post" that Giuliani and Trump have talked through a thicket of legal issues facing the President beyond the Russian investigation and decided that it would be best to try to explain why Trump and Cohen acted as they did and explain their business relationship, the people said.

For more I`m joined by Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels. Katie Phang, an MSNBC legal analyst and Robert Costa, national political reporter for "the Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Robert, let me start with you on the politics. Why all of a sudden they are opening up their pockets and their secrets and Trump is saying through Giuliani yes, I paid the $130,000. I was behind the payment.

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Talk to mayor Giuliani around midnight last night and again today. He is working closely with the President in an isolated way and not talking to White House staff or other lawyers who are part of the White House. He is talking to other members of the legal team on the outside. And they are trying to come up with a way after addressing the Stormy Daniels issue.

Giuliani believes it could become a campaign finance debate at some point, a real controversy for the President. And he decided with the President`s blessing he said to get out in front of it with his comments on FOX News.

MATTHEWS: So as long as it looked like or the public story coming from the White House and Cohen was that he, Cohen, paid the $130,000, got it out of his home equity loan or whatever, as long as that story was out there, then Cohen could be charged with a campaign violation of exceeding the $2700 limit of what you can give to a candidate by giving $130,000 to keep a story quiet a week before the election. Is that it? They didn`t want it to be campaign violations. They would rather have Trump come out basically admitting he had affair in effect by saying I admit to having paid the money to keep her quiet?

COSTA: Critics of the President and critics of mayor Giuliani`s explanation say he is spinning. And he is trying to get out in front of the issue before it becomes a possible criminal issue or legal issue with the federal election commission. Giuliani`s perspective is that the President did nothing wrong because he paid Michael Cohen through these retainers and however Michael decided to use the retainer was appropriate. But that kind of position will certainly come under scrutiny in the coming months.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Avenatti and ask you about this. I know you are involved in it so tell me. But I want you to answer the first question which is it looks to me like as a former top aide to and consigliore (ph) tie with the President said, you know, everybody thinks he had the relationship, the sexual relationship with your client. And everybody believes he paid her. So why not just admit it?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Well, they should have admitted it some time ago, Chris. I mean, here is the problem with this newfound strategy that we are seeing played out in the last 24 hours. I mean, that may have worked three months ago. But a lot of water is gone under the bridge. You now have all these statements by Michael Cohen, Michael Cohen`s attorney David Schwartz. You have statements by the White House spokesperson. You have got statements by the President on air force one. I mean, it`s a little too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

The bottom line is, the American people have been outright lied to over the last few months relating to this payment, relating to the agreement and what the President knew and when he knew it. And frankly, I don`t believe the most recent explanation and all of the additional details now that will Mr. Giuliani has spewed about over the last eight hours or so on various stations. I just don`t. And this is why we need a deposition of the President and Michael Cohen where people have to raise their right hand and be sworn in and provide definitive answers to exactly what happened here. And until that happens, we are not going to stop.

MATTHEWS: What do you think will come of a deposition of the discovery when you have got the President under oath? Will he admit -- do you believe he will admit under oath that he was intending to pay that $130,000 from the beginning or what? What do you think he will say to this?

As you point out from months they lied, well, they said he didn`t intend to pay the money. It was all going to be covered by Michael Cohen. He was somehow going to get the money from a home equity loan or something. And now they switched their story 180 overnight with Sean Hannity listening. What`s the truth you expect to hear in a deposition under oath?

AVENATTI: I think I would hope that we get to the truth. And I think the truth is going to be that the President knew about this all along and had Michael Cohen negotiate the agreement and make the $130,000 payment. Chris, I just want to ask a very simple question.

MATTHEWS: That makes sense, by the way, because anybody that finds them self -- Trump is notorious for not paying his bills.

AVENATTI: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: If somebody tells him you got to pay a bill for $130,000 and I will cover it in a short term but you are going to write the check later, he would notice that.


MATTHEWS: And he would hate doing it, but he would probably do it.

AVENATTI: And I think you are absolutely right. But look, I think that I have a very simple question. If this $130,000 reimbursement if there was nothing wrong with it and it was all above board and it was not done in an effort to circumvent campaign finance laws or money laundering laws or bank fraud laws or other law, then why wasn`t the $130,000 reimbursement payment just made by in in one fell swoop, by one payment, by check or wire transfer? Why all of these nonsense, with these bogus legal bills and structuring the payment over many months? It just doesn`t make sense, Chris. It doesn`t pass the smell test.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you completely. Why did they need the offshore that they created the LLC so they could somehow hide the money through there?

AVENATTI: Of course.

MATTHEWS: You`re right. If it was totally legit, why didn`t they act legit?

Anyway. Giuliani this morning all but admitted that the hush money was paid to avoid an election scandal. In other words, it was a (INAUDIBLE) campaign expenditure. Right? Let`s watch.


GIULIANI: Imagine if that came out October 15th, 2016 in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. So to make it go away, they made this.

GIULIANI: Cohen didn`t ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.


GIULIANI: Let me go to Katie Phang.

Katie, we keep ask whether there`s a campaign violation whether he it looked like Michael Cohen made the payment. Now it`s clear they are all saying that Trump was the ultimate payee or the payer. What do you make of the legal situation now?

KATIE PHANG, TRIAL ATTORNEY: So Giuliani as a spokesperson for President Trump has now said that structured payments were funneled through law firms. And I think that that is evidence of Trump`s consciousness of guilt. Remember, campaign finance standpoint, the timing is always been crucial. And Chris, I have always said that it is all in the timing. Why pay off Stormy Daniels right before the Presidential election?

And you don`t even have to call this circumstantial evidence of the fact that this was intended to influence the outcome of the election. You just heard Giuliani through his own words as the mouthpiece for Donald Trump admit that if it had come out in the middle after October 15, 2016 debate with Hillary Clinton, it would have tainted him.

GIULIANI: Do you think Giuliani`s lost it? I mean, why would he admit the very charge against him which this is a campaign contribution aimed at steering the election in one direction rather than another? Clearly it went in one direction because we didn`t know the about it. Hillary Clinton would probably have won if the word came out the stink of this thing a few days before election. And Giuliani is caught in bed with a porn star and he tried to pay her off with $130,000. I just don`t think all those voters that went for him marginally would have gone that way had they heard it.

PHANG: Listen. You have your extreme voting population that just doesn`t care which is why it always puzzles me that Trump has just not admitted to this. I have a theory that there is an exceptional cheat clause with his pre-nuptial agreement that he has with Melania Trump that is part of it, one. And two, the crazy thing is Trump --.

MATTHEWS: Come on. How do you know that? Come on, Katie. How do you know -- you`re purely BS`ing now?

PHANG: I`m not.

MATTHEWS: You are saying you honestly believe he has got this sort of exceptional clause here for extramarital affairs. You are saying that based upon what?

PHANG: That is not uncommon, number one and number two.

MATTHEWS: Based upon what are you charging that about Giuliani -- I mean about Trump?

PHANG: Because why has he already admitted to other bad acts of conduct in a sexual nature with other people but he refuses to acknowledge this one with Stormy Daniels. And the thing is, if you listen to the Trump tweet this morning what did he say about the NDA that he entered into with Daniels? He said it was to stop the false and extortionist attacks by Daniels.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m going to ask the injury watching to put that aside because we don`t have any idea of what the motive was for that.

Anyway, while defending the hush payment, which he did, Rudy Giuliani accused federal investigators from the southern district of New York of acing like storm troopers. Well, that is objectionable. Let`s watch him say that.


GIULIANI: I was talking about the $130,000 payment, the settlement payment which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was, the only possible violation there would be was it a campaign finance violation, which usually would rut in a fine, not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.


MATTHEWS: Michael, that`s a former prosecutor talking. Storm troopers as an illusion to the Nazis? Your thoughts?

AVENATTI: Chris, let me tell you. I used to have a lot of respect for Rudy Giuliani. I think he show the some significant leadership around 9/11, but this guy has lost it. He is no longer ready for primetime. He doesn`t know what the law is, by the way, as it relates to campaign finance law. You asked, why would he admit it? I tell you why he admitted it. Because he doesn`t understand what he is admitting.

Rudy Giuliani thinks the only way you can have a campaign finance violation is if use campaign funds to pay the $130,000. And anybody knows anything about campaign finance law knows that is not true.

And your point is a good one. This guy is a former prosecutor, U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. And he is going to demean the men and women of the FBI by calling them storm troopers and making Nazi references?

It`s an outrage to the people that wear the badge that put their lives on the line day in and day out for our safety, Chris. And he should be embarrassed by his comments. Furthermore, Michael Cohen complemented the FBI as it related to how they handled the search warrants and how professional they were. So these guys are desperate out there calling me an ambulance chaser, calling the FBI storm troopers. They would better get back to the facts because they are in a lot of trouble.

MATTHEWS: Or it was the attack on the institution of the FBI, by the way, that I think had a lot to do with this Robert Costa. I got to get to you on that. It seems to me that Rudy is making a mistake of going after the institution of the FBI when in fact I think that had a lot to do with the stimulus, if you will, for Comey and Mueller to get this whole thing going to investigate what the heck the Trump people are up to here in terms of violating the code we have in this country about the rightness of the cause of the FBI.

COSTA: And it`s part of the complicated role mayor Giuliani`s playing right now because he does have experience at the department of justice, as a U.S. attorney but going back to the 2016 campaign, he was very critical of the leadership at the department of justice, about how they were handling secretary Clinton`s email investigation. He has been critical ever since a former FBI director James Comey who pushed back against mayor Giuliani in a tweet today about that storm trooper comment. When I asked the mayor about it, he punched right back. He actually told me last night he thinks he could punch Comey in the nose someone he worked with for years in law enforcement and he called him a sensitive baby.

MATTHEWS: Well, the street fight`s begun courtesy of Giuliani.

Thank you, Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels. And thank you Robert Costa and Katie Phang.

Coming up, Rudy Giuliani makes it a street fight as I said. He is on the attack saying that he won`t let the President be suckered, that his phrase, a good street phrase, into a perjury trap by special counsel Robert Mueller. He also called FBI director Comey a disgraceful liar and said he was fired because he wouldn`t do in public what he had done in private. Clear Trump is a target in the Russian probe. By the way, he called Comey perverted.

Plus a former Trump campaign aide says that Mueller investigation remains focused on collusion with the Russians. He says they`re on to something and they are not messing around. And Rudy Giuliani, the newest member of Trump`s legal team has had a rough start, don`t you think, from last night`s wild interview to his declaration that he would have the Russia probe wrapped up, catch this, in a week or two.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He won`t like this one.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We could be on the brink of a major breakthrough ahead of President Trump`s meeting with Kim Jong-un. Trump last night hinted at the release of three Americans being detained in North Korea.

He tweeted, as everybody is aware the past administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean labor camp but to no avail. Stay tuned.

This comes amid reports that the hostage have been relocated within North Korea and are receiving medical treatment ahead of a planned release. Rudy Giuliani, a member of Trump`s legal team said today that their release was imminent.


GIULIANI: This is the President of the United States. He is getting ready to negotiate probably one of our most historic agreements since the opening to China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Nixon and others with Iran perhaps.

GIULIANI: And we got Kim Jong-un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today.


MATTHEWS: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had this to say this afternoon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, can you give us an update on the three Americans held in North Korea Rudy Giuliani said they would be released today. Is that true?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We can`t confirm the validity of any of the reports currently out about their release. But we certainly would see this as a sign of good will if North Korea were to release the three Americans ahead of discussions between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.


MATTHEWS: We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We have been following Rudy Giuliani`s stunning admission that President Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for payments to Stormy Daniels, up to $130,000.

But it`s not the only news Giuliani made last night. He also contradicted the president`s position on a question that`s been central to the obstruction case since day one.

He said that former FBI Director James Comey was fired because of the Russia investigation because Comey wouldn`t follow Trump`s directive to him to publicly clear him of being a target, which he had done in private. He wouldn`t do it in public, according to this.

Let`s watch.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn`t a target of the investigation. He is entitled to that.

Hillary Clinton got that, and he couldn`t get that.


MATTHEWS: It was only two weeks ago President Trump specifically said otherwise tweeting that: "James Comey was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation."

Well, now, Giuliani`s statement appears to support Comey`s own belief that he was indeed fired over the Russia probe.

And here`s Comey saying it himself:


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It`s a fair judgment, it`s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.


MATTHEWS: Well, today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump doesn`t have to justify why he fired Comey. Let`s watch her.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are a number of reasons that James Comey was fired. The president has named several of them. But the bottom line is, he doesn`t have to justify his decision.

The president has the authority to fire and hire. And I think every single day we have seen that he made the right decision in firing James Comey.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined by Jonathan Lemire, who is a White House reporter for the Associated Press and an MSNBC political analyst, and Joyce Vance, who is a former U.S. attorney and an MSNBC contributor.

Let me ask you, Jonathan, about the whole tenor of this and the charges here made by Rudy Giuliani. It`s a street fighter`s approach. He wants to raise the heat, calling the guy a liar, a disgraceful liar, a perverted man. I don`t know what that was about, but all these charges you throw at somebody in a street fight. It`s trash talk.

And then makes the case that he was really fired because -- Giuliani said that Comey wouldn`t say in public what he apparently told Trump in private, you`re not a target. But still it puts him backing in an area of saying it was about Russia and a Russian probe.

Why is he doing all there?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Giuliani is a brawler and, in many ways, is similar to the president in that way.

They both have sort of this street tough New York sense to them when it comes to these verbal altercations. It is, again, as you pointed out correctly, another shifting narrative, trying to explain why Comey was fired. This is the third or fourth different rationale the White House has presented in previous months.

And it`s also another effort to discredit Comey, similar to the -- who, let`s remember, is a witness in the Mueller probe. And it`s a similar moment where we have seen the White House, the president himself, whether it`s Sessions or Rosenstein or Mueller, the attempt to muddy them up, to discredit them, to make them more polarizing political figures, rather than lawmen above reproach.

And that way, you discredit their findings if they`re negative to the president, and, if needed, you justify the reasons why Trump could fire them if it comes to that.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Joyce, because I want to ask you about style.

Why did Trump go from these buttoned-down people like Ty Cobb with the handlebar mustache and sort of a guy who doesn`t really -- street fighting on television. In fact, the only -- his biggest trouble he got into is always being overheard at lunch.

And then you got Giuliani out there just spewing this stuff like a flamethrower. What`s that do to a guy judiciously? How does that help the president inside the legal system?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It really doesn`t help the president.

And although I`m sure Giuliani thought he had a strategy last night when he went on television, it`s real hard to discern today what that strategy was and how it helped the president. Giuliani seems to play the role of almost comfort food.

I guess he`s the attorney version of comfort food for the president here, someone who is consistent with how the president likes to behave, someone who is consistent with his style, but who isn`t really doing a lot to help his defense here.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about the initial thing of trying to get him off the charge of a campaign violation by saying it wasn`t a contribution to the campaign, it was the president`s own money, and he`s a candidate, so he can spend all he wants under the law?

VANCE: Right. It didn`t do anything to help with the campaign finance violation, because if there was a contribution to the campaign from Cohen that Trump later paid back, they`re still in the same hot water.

And the only real question is whether they knew what they were doing, were aware that they were violating campaign finance law, which would kick it from a regulatory violation, where you have an investigation and maybe a monetary fine at the end, over into criminal territory.

But either one of those is really a bad outcome for Trump. And Giuliani did nothing to make that situation go away.

MATTHEWS: Well, aside from seeming to corroborate Comey`s story, Giuliani otherwise attacked his credibility as a witness against the president, calling him, as I said, perverted.

Let`s watch.


GIULIANI: I know James Comey. I know the president. Sorry, Jim. You`re a liar, a disgraceful liar. Every FBI agent in America has his head down because of you.

Comey should be prosecuted for leaking confidential FBI information. I have the indignity, unfortunately, of having hired him for his first big job. And I`m embarrassed that I hired him. This is a very perverted man.


MATTHEWS: Jon, is that true -- I`m open -- this is a rhetorical question - - that every member of the FBI has his head down because of James Comey?

I think Comey is sort of their poster man, or the guy they like to be like. He`s their kind of guy, but -- or woman or whatever. But what do you make? I don`t think Comey has embarrassed the FBI. I think they`re standing up for them, as he`s standing up for the FBI. Just my thought.

LEMIRE: Yes. I`m sure there are pockets of agent who don`t like James Comey or disagree with how he handled some of the key decisions in 2016.

But this is someone who we hear time and time again, including in his testimony before Congress, talking about the very best of the bureau and how much it means to him to have led that bureau and to have served in it for so long.

This is another effort to sort of just muddy him up, to sully his reputation. It`s an attack line that echoes what the president has said.


LEMIRE: A president who has told privately to his confidants that one of the things that outrages him about Comey is the idea that Comey wrote this book and has been trying to make money off of Trump`s name, and, in this case, Trump thinks sullying his good name.

He hates the idea, always has, from his business career to now, to other people profiting off of him.

MATTHEWS: Well, this morning, Giuliani said that an interview with Mueller would be a perjury trap for the president. Watch this:


GIULIANI: This started as collusion with the Russians. No.


GIULIANI: they go to obstruction of justice, collusion among the players. And what they`re trying to do is trap him into perjury. And we`re not suckers.


MATTHEWS: Well, we do know -- we`re going to bring up in the next segment knowledge we have from Michael Caputo, based on his experience with the special prosecutor`s team, that they`re looking very much at collusion with Russia as a big part of it, if not the central part, of this investigation.

But, Joyce, I want to ask you about this.

Rudy is out there talking how he`s going to shorten this thing, it`s going to be two or three hours, it`s not going to be the 49-question length of wide scope that we have seen in the questions that were leaked.

What is he talking about? What is his leverage to even deliver on anything like that?

VANCE: This sounds a little bit like fantasyland.

He doesn`t have leverage to bargain for this sort of a severe restriction on what federal prosecutors can ask a witness or a subject or someone who receives a grand jury subpoena. The best he can hope to do is try to come up with rational limits, from his point of view, rational limits on the interview, in exchange for agreeing to submit to it.

But it won`t be two hours, and then we`re done. It won`t be, you can only ask us questions about noncontentious issues.

This just isn`t something that Mueller is going to agree to.

MATTHEWS: Sounds like to me -- it sounds right to me, Joyce. Thank you, Joyce Vance, for your expertise. Jonathan Lemire, for your reporting, thank you.

Up next: Former Trump campaign aide, as I said, Michael Caputo says that the special counsel is still focused very much on collusion with Russia. After being interviewed by Mueller`s team, Caputo says that the investigators know what they`re aiming at and are deadly accurate.

They apparently know more about the campaign than people who worked in it know.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A few witnesses in the Russian probe have spoken out about the experience of being questioned by Robert Mueller`s prosecutors. In March, we were introduced to an obscure former campaign aide, by the way, Sam Nunberg, who insisted that Mueller was -- has something on the president related to his business experience.

Now, in a series of interviews last night, another witness, former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo, is shedding some new light on the investigation of possible collusion with the Russians.

Here`s what he said:


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I learned they`re still looking at Russian collusion. They`re still looking for it. I was there during the time when they believe that Russian collusion was initiated.

That would be the only thing that they would ask me about. That certainly is the only thing we talked about. If anybody thinks that Russian collusion is off the table, they -- they haven`t visited with the Mueller team.


MATTHEWS: Boy, that is news.

Caputo, who worked on the Trump campaign from late 2015 to early 2016, also said that Mueller`s prosecutors know exactly what they`re looking for.


CAPUTO: The Mueller team is spearfishing. I think they believe they know where they`re going. They`re not asking a wide range of questions that seemed to be unrelated.

They know exactly what they`re looking for. And they have e-mails backing it up. And I don`t think that they ask any questions they don`t already know the answer to.

I`m a witness. That`s what the ASUA who interviewed me today told me. I`m a witness, not a subject or a target. But it really doesn`t matter. Once you get in the room, it`s fraught with peril. I would compare it to a proctology appointment with a very large-handed doctor.


MATTHEWS: A lyrical fellow, isn`t he?

Joining me right now is Ken Vogel, reporter for "The New York Times."

Well, a spearfisher, I imagine a guy or woman who sees the fish and spears it. You know what you`re looking for. You`re not netting fish. You`re spearing them.

OK, this guy is saying that the Mueller people really do have a clear background information, as I think -- from this guy said, they know more about the campaign than he did.


I think that there`s a message embedded in what he`s saying there.

MATTHEWS: Remember my iceberg metaphor?

VOGEL: Right.

MATTHEWS: You never know what Mueller is up to. There`s so much of it out there.

VOGEL: Right. Right.

Well, in this case, it is rare, as you pointed out in the setup, to have a witness come out and talk about what was discussed. That is also fraught with peril.

But I think the message embedded in what he`s saying, potentially speaking through the media to other potential witnesses, and possibly even to Donald Trump himself, is, be careful. They could be -- Mueller`s team could be setting you up for a perjury trap.

In other words, if they`re asking very specific questions about things that they already know the answer to....

MATTHEWS: True or false.

VOGEL: Right.


MATTHEWS: True-or-false questions.

VOGEL: Right, what is the purpose of that, other than to catch you lying and to potentially be able to flip you and use you against witnesses or other subjects?


MATTHEWS: Well, I also love the news in this, because I care -- I do care about the Russian collusion more than the other piece, because it has to do with our national defense. I don`t like Russians messing with us. And I don`t like any American playing ball with them.

And my question -- I thought it was also important that he said don`t get the idea this isn`t about collusion.

VOGEL: Yes, a couple points to consider there.

Number one is, this guy Michael Caputo is a longtime Roger Stone protege.


VOGEL: And my understanding from my sources is that a lot of questions to him were about Roger Stone or Roger Stone`s role in the campaign.

So, contextualizing, when he says that they were asking about collusion, it`s during the time that I was there.


MATTHEWS: What do you know about Roger Stone`s role?

VOGEL: Roger Stone, we see the D.M.s and the claims about him corresponding with WikiLeaks.

These are questions that could be at the core of a collusion investigation. I don`t know necessarily that that`s what Michael Caputo was asked about. But my understanding is, he was asked about Roger Stone.

So, that`s important to know, that this guy is a Roger Stone guy. It`s also important to know, he wouldn`t necessarily know. If they`re narrowly targeting what they`re asking to individual witnesses, he`s only getting what they know about him and what they think that he knows.

He`s not getting this broader picture. He`s not going to get questions about Stormy Daniels or Michael Cohen. So, he only knows what he knows.

MATTHEWS: So, when Roger Stone said weeks before John Podesta`s e-mails were hacked, right, by the Russians, he said this guy is about to spend his time in the barrel.

He never really explained what he meant, except that he knew it was coming.

VOGEL: Right. And he`s tried to say that wasn`t necessarily ability any insider knowledge that he had about WikiLeaks, just about stuff that was out there publicly.

I think that`s a little hard to believe. Roger Stone, to me, suffers a little bit from this effort that he`s sort of endeavored over the decades to build himself up.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I know. He wants people to think he`s doing all kinds of...


VOGEL: Right. Right. And so now people suddenly believe him. And he`s like, no, no, I didn`t mean that.


MATTHEWS: Well, he is a cloak and dagger guy. He really is.

VOGEL: Right.

MATTHEWS: I have been in politics a long time. There`s people like him out there that do stuff that you don`t really know whether they did it or not. But you think they did. And that`s good for them.

VOGEL: He`s certainly built up the mythology around himself.

MATTHEWS: Well, it helps.

Anyway, it`s better to be feared than loved, according to Machiavelli.

Anyway, Ken Vogel, thank you.

Up next: From the Stormy Daniels case to the Russia probe, Giuliani -- Giuliani has had a rocky start as the newest member and the top dog in the Trump legal dog. What does he bring to the table, by the way? Is this a way to take the heat away from the boss? It`s working.

Rudy`s getting all the heat, all the spotlight. Do you think Trump likes that? We will see.

You`re watching it, HARDBALL.



In his interview with Sean Hannity last night, Rudy Giuliani may have created new legal problems for the president.

He told the "New York Post", he hoped to end the Russia probe soon saying, I don`t think it`s going to take more than a week or two to get a resolution. They`re almost there.

Well, this morning, Giuliani changed his tune, calling the investigation a waste of the president`s time and saying his Attorney General Jeff Sessions` responsibility to wrap it up.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP LAWYER: We got Kim Jong-un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today. I`ve got go there and Jay Sekulow and -- we have to prepare him for this silly deposition about a case in which he supposedly colluded with the Russians but there`s no evidence of that? I mean, everybody forgets the basis of the case is dead. Sessions should step in and close it. And say enough is enough.


MATTHEWS: Giuliani weighed in on another potential target of Mueller`s probe, the president`s daughter, Ivanka.

That`s coming up next with the HARDBALL roundtable.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In his interview with Sean Hannity last night, Rudy Giuliani called Robert Mueller`s probe a garbage investigation. Giuliani also warned of one person Mueller should avoid at all costs.


GIULIANI: Now, if they do do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on him. They`re going after his daughter.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: What about his son-in-law? They talked about him.

GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man. You know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable.

Anita Kumar is White House correspondent for "McClatchy", Francesca Chambers is White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail", and Howard Fineman is an MSNBC and NBC News analyst.

I thought it was a Hyman Roth, talking about the brothers, you know, they`re small potatoes. Forget Jared. Just forget Jared. Now Ivanka, don`t touch her.

What did you make of that?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Disposable, ouch. That was really rough. I mean, remember though --

MATTHEWS: What did he mean?

KUMAR: The daughter versus the son-in-law? I guess male/female. But let`s remember that Jared Kushner has -- his star has dimmed over time. I mean, he used to be out front.

MATTHEWS: He`s doing prison reform I think.

KUMAR: Doing prison reform, he`s still doing Middle East peace. We haven`t seen him nearly as much. He was out front in the public eye all sorts of times last year. Now, not so much.

MATTHEWS: Well, "The Washington Post" reports excitedly whether they have dinner at different places last time. The new Israeli restaurant, they`re talking it up.

Anyway, Francesca?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL: I would agree that it`s the boss`s daughter. But if I were Jared Kushner, I would be very concerned by that term when you have the president`s lawyer saying that you`re disposable as you head into this case, whereas You`re looking at this Russia probe but also the Trump Tower meeting where the son-in-law was there, the son of the president was there and Paul Manafort.

So, we know what happened to Paul Manafort and we sure know what happened to Steve Bannon after he insulted the president`s son. That leaves Jared hanging.


MATTHEWS: By the way, all the Romanovs died together, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I`m not touching that with a ten- foot pole.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think there`s a privileged position for the first daughter.

FINEMAN: Nor am I going to make a joke about Kushner deciding to study prison reform right now.

MATTHEWS: OK. You mean like he might need it. Go on. I don`t want to --

FINEMAN: Well, what should we talk about -- Rudy Giuliani I covered when I he was mayor.

MATTHEWS: Is he bringing lights or heat or what?

FINEMAN: Well, he -- since you mentioned Hyman Roth, it`s kind of like in the Catskills, they have a guy called a tumbler whose job is to stir things up mix things up, get out ahead of the parade and mess things up.


FINEMAN: But there`s a serious point Rudy is making. Basically what he`s doing is the low ball strategy of going after the legitimacy of the entire investigation. And that`s what they`re reduced to now. As the investigation gets closer to Don Junior and Jared and Michael Cohen, the people truly in the inner circle with Donald Trump, Donald Trump is feeling the heat. And the only answer he`s going to have is to somehow try to discredit legally or constitutionally the entire investigation.

Rudy is the rough version that have message talking about stormtroopers and so forth. But you`re going to hear that consistently from here on.

MATTHEWS: Trash talk.

Francesca --


MATTHEWS: Why the trash talk and why bring down the whole level -- it is like a beat-up old car crashing into a new car. You know, Comey, I mean, Mueller looks like a new car. They bringing this jalopy, Giuliani, and he goes charging into the new car. We are in metaphors here.

CHAMBERS: But this is what the president has been doing this entire time trying to undermine Comey`s credibility. We saw him start to move in that territory with the special counsel earlier this year. Now he`s sending in Rudy Giuliani to mess it up.

MATTHEWS: He calls Comey perverted. I can`t figure that one out.

KUMAR: You`re asking as if he was first choice. Let`s not forget how many attorneys turned down Donald Trump. This is the guy he got. It`s a guy that`s really like himself. But this is a guy who he tried to join the administration. He was turned down for --

MATTHEWS: He`s turned down for a pretty good job.

KUMAR: Pretty good job.

MATTHEWS: Secretary of state.

KUMAR: No, didn`t get the job offers, right? He didn`t get the job offers. Donald Trump wanted another attorney and he got Rudy Giuliani.

MATTHEWS: I think he picked somebody like himself, Howard.

FINEMAN: Yes, I think that`s right. I think that`s exactly right.

MATTHEWS: He`s a wild man in some ways?

FINEMAN: In some ways, Rudy Giuliani makes Donald Trump look demure. I mean, right now, that`s his job. His job is to go out there and call the names perverted, stormtrooper, et cetera that even Donald Trump is hesitant about.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, as "The New York Times" points out, Mr. Giuliani has historically been something of a loose cannon who`s not used to having his words carefully managed. I think we made that point. Anyway, this whole question of Rudy Giuliani been able to win all basic charge today, which is it wasn`t a campaign violation, it was the boss paying his client -- paying his lawyer $130,000 on the sly so he wouldn`t have to admit he had the relationship with that that woman, Stormy Daniels. That`s the way they explained it now

KUMAR: Yes. But if you talk to campaign experts, they say that he opened up a whole -- he opened up --

MATTHEWS: What`s the violation?

KUMAR: If it benefitted him during the campaign. So, it`s not about campaign money.

MATTHEWS: Are candidates allowed to give all he wants to the campaign.

FINEMAN: He has to report it though.


GRAHAM: President Trump did not report that.

MATTHEWS: I`ve been in this business a long time. Those kind of stories made fifth page, 55 or 57, but they don`t report something.

FINEMAN: Chris, what he was doing -- MATTHEWS: These are not felonious.

FINEMAN: What Rudy was doing last night --


FINEMAN: -- was take -- I`ve talked to people close to this thing, is to take pressure off Michael Cohen.


FINEMAN: They`re worried about Cohen flipping. If it was just Michael Cohen`s money, it`s Michael who would have been exposed. So, this is like a house where there`s fire breaking out everywhere. They wanted to tamp out the Michael Cohen fire and keep Michael Cohen on board.

In the process of keeping Michael Cohen on board, they put Trump in jeopardy for what I agree is not going to be the thing that brings him down one way or the other.

KUMAR: I actually think the Comey thing is just as important. This is people are saying obstruction of justice. Is that obstruction of justice? Why did he fire James Comey?

MATTHEWS: He said it was because he wouldn`t clear him publicly of being a target. But he did clear him privately of being a target.

KUMAR: Right, but he said even Hillary Clinton got that.


CHAMBERS: But these changing explanations are very problematic for the White House in terms of why. Then we heard Sarah Sanders say today, I know this was played earlier, but this is really extraordinary he doesn`t have to have any justification whatsoever and he has the right to fire and hire anybody for any reason he wants to essentially. And so, that`s definitely something that I would imagine --

MATTHEWS: How much of is just working the refs? Because two things he said in the last -- since this morning on "Fox & Friends." First, he said this thing`s going to be over with. He said basically it`s going to be over with and there`s no collusion.

Well, there is collusion. We just heard from Michael Caputo. They believe there`s stuff there. Why is he saying this stuff for? Why is Giuliani saying these conclusive remarks?

FINEMAN: Because he`s playing the loose cannon, bad cop, call it what you will --

KUMAR: I thought Donald Trump was playing that.

FINEMAN: -- to set up whatever negotiation are going to be.

But I`ll tell you this, politically, I think Donald Trump`s willing to take the risk that if they try to impeach him or indict him for firing Comey, that politically, that will be a winner for him. He`s willing to take that risk. That`s why they`re going after Comey, hammer and tong every day, the book, the money, the name calling.

MATTHEWS: Pervert.

FINEMAN: All of that stuff, because if that is Bob Mueller`s chief example of obstruction of justice --

MATTHEWS: I think you`re on to something, guys.

FINEMAN: -- Mueller knows what`s not about.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s the story.

Anyway, the roundtable is going to stick with us. And up next, these three will tell me something else I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Anita, tell me something I don`t know.

KUMAR: Pew had a really interesting survey out this week that shows us how Americans have changed in the age of Trump.

So, last year, not even a year ago, 58 percent of Americans said they wanted someone who would compromise a politician who would compromise. Now they want someone who will stick to their policy, 52 percent want people to stick to their policy.

MATTHEWS: But they don`t want -- they don`t want --

KUMAR: They don`t want compromise anymore.

MATTHEWS: Therefore they want the government to not.

KUMAR: Function?

MATTHEWS: Yes, thank you.


CHAMBERS: So, tomorrow, the president is on the move, Chris. He will be in Texas speaking to the National Rifle Association meeting. He was the first president several decades to do so last year. And tomorrow, he`ll be speaking there again.

The White House was able to question about this week, whether it was insensitive after Parkland. However, they think it`s perfectly fine. And, of course, you and I both know, this is an important convention for him ahead of the midterm elections.

MATTHEWS: He`s picked a side.



FINEMAN: Chris, we`ve been talking about loose cannon Rudy Giuliani. I`ve been doing reporting on the other lawyer here, Emmet Flood who`s brought in from Williams & Connolly, famous white collar criminal defense firm. If Rudy`s a loose cannon, this guy is a laser beam. But he`s going to make the same argument that Rudy made, which is the investigation in its entirety is unconstitutional and out of control.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Anita Kumar, Francesca Chambers and Howard Fineman.

When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, May 3rd, 2018.

There is nobody in America who didn`t think the president had the affair with a porn star. I doubt there`s anybody in America who didn`t think the president had Michael Cohen pay off the porn star. Well, that quote in today`s "Washington Post" attributed to a former Trump advisor who remains close to the White House tells us as much about what we need to know about the decision by the president`s new attorney Rudolph Giuliani to let the cat out of the bag, to offer the blunt confession that it was Donald Trump himself who paid the $130,000 in hush money to adult film actor Stormy Daniels.

So, this is how things work in today`s presidential politics. You wait until even your biggest fans know it was you. Then you admit it was you. You deny, deny, deny until the denials don`t work. Then you offer up the obvious confession.

Well, this gives you the soft landing that avoids the kind of loud noise you cause if you tell the truth when the story first breaks. Now that we`ve gotten the confession, it`s worth giving it a listen. What Giuliani is admitting is that Donald Trump funneled that $130,000 to seal the nondisclosure deal with Stormy Daniels within a few days of the 2016 election so as not to throw Trump`s chances overboard.

Whether intended as a campaign contribution or not, imagine the electoral consequences if a week before the election in November of 2016, this woman had appeared on television with a colorful description of her sexual relationship with Mr. Trump.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.